The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Jones Dairy Farms in Fort Atkinson, Wis., for 15 safety and health violations, including employee overexposure to respirable dust, failure to implement a respiratory protection program and failure to properly store hazardous chemicals. The company faces fines of $70,000.

Jones Dairy Farms is a sausage-maker, not a farm with live dairy cattle.

Yet, it serves as a possible warning for dairy farms. Earlier this year, Mary Bauer, an OSHA compliance assistant specialist, announced that Wisconsin would be stepping up its inspection of dairy farms, noting that a recent increase in on-farm fatalities is prompting the inspections.

"Employers have a responsibility to ensure all employees have safe working environments, which includes taking all necessary precautions to protect them from exposure to hazardous substances," says Kimberly Stille, OSHA's area director in Madison, Wis. "Employers are responsible for knowing what hazards exist in their workplaces and ensuring that workers are not exposed to unnecessary risks."

Regarding Jones Dairy Farms, OSHA conducted an inspection in January. Citations for eight serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $42,000, were issued for open-sided platforms; damaged storage racks; a missing tongue guard on a grinder; having a compressed air gun registered over 30 pounds per square inch; storing oxygen and acetylene cylinders together; failing to have a working pressure gauge on the acetylene cylinder; missing a flash back arrestor on the acetylene cylinder, and using electrical equipment that was not free from hazards.

Additionally, citations for six serious health violations, with proposed penalties of $28,000, were issued for failing to establish and implement a respiratory protection program; failing to have written operating procedures for high stage compressors; failing to establish procedures to manage changes to process chemicals; storing incompatible hazardous chemicals together; using equipment that had not been approved for ignitable or combustible properties and failing to train employees on the physical and health hazards of chemicals in the work area.

A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Jones Dairy also was issued one other-than-serious health citation for not providing employees with basic advisory information on respirators. No penalty was assessed for this violation. An other-than-serious citation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious injury.

OSHA fines can range from a couple hundred dollars to $70,000, depending upon the seriousness of the violation. Some penalties may even result in jail time.

Jones Dairy has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The citations at Jones Dairy farm are a good reminder that it’s time to make sure your farm is ready for an OSHA inspection. For more information, look to the June issue of Dairy Herd Management to read: Knock, knock, it's OSHA. Resources on where to go for help are also included in the article.